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2021 Worlds: Team USA recap

A silver medal finish was not what Team USA — or their fans — had in mind at Worlds

Canada v United States: Gold Medal Game - 2021 IIHF Women’s World Championship Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images

For the first time since the 2012 World Championship, the United States went home with silver medals instead of gold.

How They Finished

Team USA came into this year’s tournament with high expectations, hoping to win their sixth consecutive gold medal at the World Championship. Things...didn’t quite go as planned, though, for the Americans as they finished in second place, taking home silver to Canada’s gold.

What Went Right

The Americans finished second at the tournament in goals for (28), just behind Canada (34). Their offense was primarily generated by some of the usual suspects — Hilary Knight and Alex Carpenter had four and five goals, respectively — while rookie Grace Zumwinkle made a splash with four goals of her own.

Nicole Hensley was also exceptional in net, almost perfectly splitting the game load with veteran Alex Cavallini. Through four starts and five appearances, Hensley made 61 saves on 65 shots and recorded two shutouts. For her first senior team appearance since the 2018 Olympics, there’s nothing shabby about that showing.

What Went Wrong

It might seem a bit odd to say “Where do we even begin?” for the team who returned to their home country with silver medals around their necks, but that’s pretty much exactly what I’m saying here.

As many have pointed out, Team USA’s defense was lacking throughout the entirety of the tournament. The loss of Kacey Bellamy to retirement, coupled with a coaching change and the youth movement, meant that the Americans struggled on the back end more than they have in the past. Consistently, it looked as though many of the team’s defenders were more oriented towards offensive production rather than, you know, their job.

The deployment of special teams left something to be desired too. The American power play was shockingly ineffective, ranked sixth out of the ten teams at the tournament with only three conversions on 24 opportunities. While that doesn’t sound abysmal, keep in mind that Team USA was awarded more power plays (24) than any other team in the bottom five (Germany and ROC had 22, Switzerland had 20, and Denmark had 11).

What Comes Next

Team USA has already qualified for the Beijing Olympics, so what’s next is preparing for that tournament in February. To do so, the Americans are going to have to take a long, hard look at some of their systems and examine exactly what went wrong in Calgary.

Obviously, the defense and power play need some work and retooling. The deployment of the youngsters on the team could also stand to be reconfigured, but ultimately, that’s up to the discretion of head coach Joel Johnson.

MVP(s)

One of the players with the most to prove this tournament was Alex Carpenter, who came into Worlds with the purpose of winning gold and making a case for her inclusion on the 2022 American Olympic roster.

Canada v United States: Gold Medal Game - 2021 IIHF Women’s World Championship”n Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images

While she and the rest of her squad might not have succeeded at bringing home the gold medal, that doesn’t mean Carpenter didn’t come in clutch in some of the biggest moments for Team USA. She scored twice against Japan in the quarterfinals, tallied the game-winner against Finland in the semifinals, and potted the Americans’ only two goals in the gold medal game against Canada for a total of five goals over the course of the tournament.

Data courtesy of IIHF.com